STARKVILLE, MS – No. 8 Auburn kicked off its Southeastern Conference slate with another impressive performance.
J'Von McCormick led the way.
McCormick scored a career-high 28 points, and the Tigers beat Mississippi State 80-68 on Saturday.
Auburn (13-0, 1-0) placed five players in double figures. Samir Doughty had 15 points, and Isaac Okoro finished with 14. Danjel Purifoy scored 11 points, and Austin Wiley had 10 points and five blocked shots.
McCormick went 9 for 17 from the field and 8 for 11 at the line. The senior guard also had four assists and two steals.
“We knew coming in they would be more physical,” McCormick said. “It's SEC play and the atmosphere was going to change. But we had to keep shooting and our first (3-pointer) that went in, it gave us a spark. It was big for us to start off 1-0 and we knew we'd face a challenge at Mississippi State.”
Mississippi State (9-4, 0-1) shot 34% (23 for 68) from the field in its second loss in three games. It also committed 14 turnovers.
Reggie Perry had 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs in his 16th career double-double. Nick Weatherspoon scored 18 points, and Robert Woodard had 12 points and 12 boards. Abdul Ado finished with a career-high nine blocked shots and 11 rebounds.
“I thought the defense we played to start this game was the best we've had this year, for sure,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. “We couldn't get it going, offensively, and we had so many opportunities in transition. We got too sped up and did not play with poise. We got stops but didn't capitalize on it. Our starting front line on the backboards were great but our defense in the second half really fell off.”
Both teams struggled offensively in the opening half. Auburn missed 22 of its first 25 shots as Mississippi State opened an 18-9 lead.
But the Bulldogs turned cold, missing 13 of their next 14 attempts as Auburn reeled off nine straight points to tie the game on McCormick's layup with 3:48 remaining. The Tigers finished the half on an 11-6 run and held a 29-24 advantage at halftime.
"I really thought coming in that we would find out a lot about our ballclub," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "The physicality of Mississippi State, we felt we had a real challenge today and that was a huge emphasis on what we did. Our starting guards did a tremendous job, defensively, on Mississippi State's backcourt.
“Reggie Perry is the biggest mismatch in the league but we hung in there. It's been a different guy for us each game and it's a good win for us”
Auburn: The Tigers were able to overcome bad history at Humphrey Coliseum and remained undefeated. Auburn entered Saturday with just a 2-15 record at Humphrey Coliseum since 2001.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs didn't get the start they needed in SEC action. The Bulldogs now travel to Alabama and LSU next week to open up their league road schedule.
Auburn: The Tigers host Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs travel to Alabama on Wednesday.
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